When Tempers Flare

Upon finding out about Meliandra’s arrest, Brynjolf plans to rescue her. Despite his joy at finding out she was released, both of their tempers flare and fireworks ensue.

Brynjolf reviewed the weeks reports of how much gold they had added to the coffers as well as how many job requests they had gotten in.  Slowly their presence was being felt again, but not enough.  The war was taking a toll on everyone, jobs were scarce and the need for their services weren’t as in much demand as the demand for mercenaries were.  He picked up the stack of messages from his operatives and began reading through them.  He was pleased to see that some of them who had stepped away from the Guild were now willing to work with them again; it seems that many of the operatives had been taken advantage of by Mercer and tried to distance themselves from him.

After some time, he sat back in the chair, his gaze resting on the bed that at one time Meliandra would sleep in.  His thoughts went to the last time she was here and how what had started out as steps forward in fixing their relationship ended up blowing up before his eyes.  He had obviously misread her jovial mood that day that had made him believe that she was ready to talk and when he went to apologize again in the morning he had discovered that she had left sometime during the night.

He was beginning to understand now more than ever what it meant to not know what you’ve got until its gone. The feelings he felt for her were so intense and her absence from his life created such a void the likes of which he had never experienced in his life before.  He thought of the conversation he had had with Vekel the other day and how the bartender smiled at him, a look of knowing touching his eyes as he shook his head telling the second in charge that he had fallen in love with the Breton.  He knew the man was right.  But had he lost his one opportunity to be truly happy?

He noticed the courier making his way from the Flagon entrance toward him.  He recognized the boy as one employed by Niranye in Windhelm to ferret sensitive messages to the Guild and immediately became concerned.  He sat up as the boy approached him; an icy finger of fear traced down his spine for a reason unknown to him.  “Gaelock,” he said as the young Altmer came closer.  “Everything alright?  We usually don’t see you around here.”

The boy shook his head as he reached into his satchel and pulled out the sealed message from his employer.  “Niranye says this is urgent and for your eyes only.”

Brynjolf’s eyebrow rose as he accepted the letter.  He opened it and began to read, sitting straighter in his chair as he did so.  He let the paper fall to the desk once he finished and ran his hand through his hair.  “Shor’s Balls,” he swore.  He reached into the jar to the side, took out some gold and handed it to the young man.  “Tell Niranye thank you.  And make sure some of that gets to her, too.”

Gaelock nodded and smiled, “Of course.”  Then he turned and headed back into the Flagon.

“Shit,” Brynjolf swore under his breath, his thoughts returning to the message from the Altmer thief.  Meliandra had been seen getting arrested by Windhelm guards led by the jarl’s right-hand man.  He had remembered Delvin saying that a job had come in for Windhelm to be hit.  He immediately knew that it was Meli who took the job.

The Guild’s policy was to leave a captured thief be when and if one got caught.  But he would be damned if he was going to leave the Guild Master locked up and he began to form a rescue plan using Cynric’s jailbreaking skills.

#

She took a deep breath as she stepped into the Bee & Barb, the familiar aroma of fish cooking in the kitchen with a hint of saltiness in the air wafting through her nostrils, eliciting a slight rumble of hunger from her stomach.  She approached the bar where the Argonian innkeeper was busy serving the Snow-Shod son.  She noticed that Sapphire wasn’t in her usual spot near the door, scouting for possible marks so she could lighten their pockets.  She stood at the bar and cleared her throat, bringing the woman’s attention to her.

“Oh,” the Argonian said sourly, “it’s you.  Here to extort more gold from me?”

Meliandra narrowed her eyes as she responded, “Don’t tempt me, Keevara.  The Guild’s under new rules, new management.  I’m sure the new Guild Master would be more than willing to add some new fees to your monthly contribution to the betterment of our fair city.”

The Argonian snorted.  “New management?  Who would be psychotic enough to want to be the boss of your motley crew of thieves?”

The Breton leaned onto the counter and smiled at her.  “Me.  Now, shall we continue?”

The inn-keeper swallowed nervously before shaking her head.  “I was just joking, Meliandra.  What can I do for you?”

The Guild Master set a stack of gold on the counter.  “A room with privacy and absolutely no disturbances.”

The Argonian slid the coins off the counter quickly, her claws slightly scratching the wood.  She nodded, saying, “Of course.  If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you to your room.”

The trio followed her upstairs and into a room far off to the back.  Once they were alone amongst themselves, they began to settle in for the day.  Vorstag and Lydia were going to be going to the market and sell what junk they had while replenishing their supplies and have Balimund make any repairs needed to their armor and weapons.  In the meantime, Meliandra would be going down to handle business with the Thieves Guild.

The sun was beginning its descent past the horizon by the time Meliandra emerged from the inn.  She saw Modesi at his stall, just starting to close up shop for the night.  She walked over to him, delivering the chunk of gold ore he was looking for for an authentic Saxhleel piece of jewelry he was making.  After paying her generously for her help, she made her way to the Riften graveyard.  She absently noted the Shrine of Talos and thought about the stories of Tiber Septim she had read as a teen.  Once again, she remembered the feeling of the dragon soul coming over her, laying claim to her.  She could not fathom that she of all people could possibly be Dragonborn.  She shook her head as she opened the entrance to the Guild.

#

She entered the Cistern to see Delvin, Sapphire, Cynric, Vex and Brynjolf huddled around the desk, talking quietly amongst themselves.  She couldn’t make out what they were talking about but it seemed urgent.  The closer she got, the more visible Brynjolf’s face was and she could see concern written all over it.

Vex looked up and upon seeing her, smiled.  She nudged Brynjolf and pointed out the Guild Master to him.  His eyes went from irritated to surprise to happy as he got up from his chair and walked toward her.  He caught himself before drawing her into a hug.  “Meli,” he said, relief riding on his voice.  “We heard you’d been arrested.”

“I was,” she answered back.  She placed the stolen signet ring in front of Delvin.  “But I had a job to do.”

Delvin picked up the ring, letting out a whistle.  “Well, look at this little beauty,” he said in admiration.  “This is Ulfric’s?”

The Breton smirked.  “It is indeed.”  She shrugged nonchalantly.  “You said something that would make them know it was us.  I think that fits the bill.”

Delvin smiled broadly, chuckling.  “Good work, boss.  I’ll get you your coin by the end of the night.”

“No rush, Delvin.”  She took her seat and began to inquire as to the state of the Guild.  For the next couple hours, she listened to what her people reported to her and how the Guild was slowly regaining their foothold.  She listened intently and watched carefully at everyone’s interactions, how smoothly they all worked together.  Slowly, one by one, they left to retire for the night leaving only her and Brynjolf.

She stood, yawning.  “I need to get some sleep; it’s been a long couple of days.”

Brynjolf stood, nodding.  “I’ll walk with you to your room.”

She sighed but nodded back at him.  “Things seem to be looking up,” she said casually as they made their way out of the Cistern.

He nodded.  “Everyone saw the sacrifice that you made to expose Mercer.  They have a new outlook on their jobs.  You’ve made them strive to be better, lass.”

A sad laugh came from her.  “I hate to break it to you, Bryn, but I had ulterior motives for wanting to kill Mercer, let alone bring him down.”

He looked over at her; the whisper of sorrow in her voice shouted at him.  She walked into the room that the Guild had decided to make quarters strictly for the Guild Master and turned to face him.  “What I shared with Mercer was strictly a satisfaction of our mutual carnal desires, nothing more.” She sighed.  “I had no illusions about any kind of meaningful relationship with him.”  She shifted her eyes slightly away from him.  “The last time I thought I had one of those I ended up being hurt.”

Brynjolf felt the verbal slap and closed his eyes, knowing she meant him.  He opened his eyes again and looked at her, his eyes soft as he gazed at her.  “Lass, I’m sorry.  I really am.  I don’t know how I can make it up to you.”

She shook her head.  “You know, Bryn, right now I don’t even want to think about any of that, alright? I’ve got a lot more on my plate than dealing with you and I.”  She ran her hand through her ebony hair, sighing.  “I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t be taking it out on you.”

“Is there anything I can do to help you?  Or the Guild?”

She shook her head.  Her voice was flat as she answered, “No, I need to handle this myself, Bryn.”

“Meli, we can help you- “

“Damn it, Bryn!” she snapped.  “I don’t want nor need your damn help!  Why must you patronize me, acting like you care about me?”

“Acting like I care?” he snapped back.  “Are you fucking serious, Meliandra?”  He shook his head.  “Here I’ve been worried about you ever since I received word that you had been arrested, but no, I don’t fucking care about you!”

“Worried?”  she repeated sarcastically.  “That’s not what it looked like to me when I walked in.  In fact, you and Vex looked rather cozy sitting next to each other.  Hell, she even smiled at me, like she was gloating that she drove us apart.”

“Oh for fucks sake!” he cried out in exasperation.  “What in Oblivion do you fucking think we were doing when you walked in?  Having a tea party?” He stared at her, his anger quickly rising.  “Shor’s Balls, Meli.  We were planning on how to break you out of jail!”  He turned to walk out, stopped, turned and walked back to her.  His eyes burned hot with anger, the words, acid upon his tongue.  “Just how did you manage to get out of there with the jarl’s signet ring?  Wait, don’t tell me.”  His eyes narrowed as he spat his next words out.  “You fucked Ulfric for your freedom.”

Her eyes went wide, mirroring the anger that raged in his.  She brought her hand across his face, hard.  “How dare you!”  She raised her hand, posed to strike him again.

He caught her hand mere inches from his face. “How dare I?”  He snarled at her.  “You’re no better than a whore, Meliandra.  You’ll spread your legs for anyone if it benefits you.”

Her eyes narrowed.  “You didn’t seem to have a problem with that when you were fucking me,” she snapped as she pulled her hand out of his grip.  “What’s wrong, Bryn?  Vex not giving it up anymore?”

Suddenly, with no warning, he grabbed her and pulled her to him, crushing his lips with hers, his tongue forced its way into her mouth and demanded ownership of it.  His grip around her was strong, holding her in his arms firmly as he gave into the overwhelming need to feel her in his arms, to kiss her with abandon like he had once done.  Breaking the kiss, he breathed heavily, “I don’t want Vex.  I want you.”

“You lost that chance, Brynjolf.”  She noticed that her voice was not as strong and forceful as she had intended it to be, but rather it was weak as she tried to reclaim the breath that he had just taken from her.

“I don’t think I did, lass,” he said as he kissed her again.

She tried to pull back, her hands finding their way to his chest, pushing at him as his kiss consumed her.  She tried to fight, not him, but her own desire to give in to his very touch.  Despite herself she found that she was returning his kiss with as much fervor and determination that he was giving.  Her hands went from pushing on him to frantically loosening his tunic and running her fingers down his bare skin, leaving red marks where her nails pressed into him.  “You’re a lying cheat,” she breathed at one point, kissing him again as his fingers worked the ties free on her clothing and quickly removed them from her body.

“And you’re a slut,” be breathed against her skin, his lips tracing their way down her neck and onto her shoulder.

“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”  She tilted her head back, her hands finding their way through his hair, guiding him to her now naked breasts.  She gasped in pleasure as he took her breast in his mouth, his tongue flicking across her nipple before he did the same to the other.

“You are a bad girl that does bad things, Meliandra.”  His voice grew heavy with lust as he lifted her into his arms and carried her to her bed.  He laid her upon it, then, keeping to his knees, he climbed upon the bed, staying at the foot of it.  He stared at her before him as he removed his pants, his erection hard and throbbing.  “Did you enjoy fucking the Battle-Born son?” he asked as he slipped two fingers into her and began playing with her.  “What about that barmaid?  Did you enjoy having a woman do this to you?”  His fingers thrust faster and harder in her; his excitement was building.

“Yes,” she panted, “I liked her fucking me.”

“What about the Battle-Born kid?”  he fingered her faster still; she was dripping wet now.  “Did you like fucking him?”

She looked at him.  “No,” she admitted.  “I didn’t.  I hated it.”  She moaned and writhed against his hand then looked back at him.  “Please fuck me, Brynjolf, just fuck me.”

He smiled as he withdrew his fingers and positioned himself above her.  He stared at her as he asked, “Fuck you?  You really want me to fuck you?”  She nodded emphatically.  He stared at her for a moment longer then leaned forward, resting the tip of his shaft against her slit.  “This is what you want?”

“Yes!” she cried out.  “Please!”

He gave a hard thrust, slamming his entire length into her, causing her to cry out.  His thrusts were frantic; she clawed at his chest, drawing blood.  He was losing his control; she was crying out her quickly impending orgasm.  He thrust again, harder; her juices flowed as if a dam had burst forth, sending her body into spasms as she climaxed.  Brynjolf felt the flooding from her pooling around him and soon his own body went rigid as his cum exploded into her womb, filing her with his seed.  He collapsed next to her; his breathing accelerated but starting to return to normal.

She laid beside him, his arm wrapped around her and she remembered how secure that had always made her.  She closed her eyes and let herself enjoy the moment.

Brynjolf held her, tracing her skin with his fingers.  He had not realized how much he missed the feel of her body against his, how they seemed to fit together perfectly.  He did not want this moment to end for in the here and now his world was perfect.  He had his Breton in his arms again.  That’s the only thing that mattered to him.

As he kissed the top of her head he whispered, “I love you, Meli.”

The Rat in The Cage

He sat at the table in the room they had him secreted away in. He had but few visitors and those were far and few in between.  He had been lured to the Legion with promises of fame and glory but so far all he had received was this room and isolation.  Secrets whispered in his ears via hidden messages delivered in coded letters gave him little solace as each day passed.  A promise of a visit was included in the latest of messages and this made him anxious with joyful hope.  Perhaps this visit will bring news that will see him a free man once more.

Manipulation

The doors opened, a gust of snow-filled wind blew into the corridor as the jarl walked through, his thick, black fur cloak billowing behind him.  His face, as always, was unreadable as he made his way to his rooms, paying little mind to those he passed along the way.  He had decided to take a walk to clear his mind and had made his way to the training yard and watched some of his men sparring for a while before making his way to the Temple of Talos where he had spent time contemplating the war.  Restlessness had set in and soon he had found himself walking the streets of his city until the wind turned harsh and he made his way back to the Palace.

His mind was weighed down with thoughts of the war, the sellswords he sent to Castle Dour to extract and extradite the traitor Appius that kept failing to successfully infiltrate the Legion’s Skyrim base, and now his thoughts included the thieving Breton, specifically, how did she manage to get into his personal armory.  He kept thinking that if she had been able to get that far into the Palace and into one of the most secured wings of the castle, perhaps she would be able to do what the sellswords had failed to do.

He walked into his quarters, removing his cloak as he did so and draping across the back of a chair, then proceeded to pour himself a goblet of mead before walking across the room to a window to gaze out across his city.  A dusting of snow rested upon the tops of the stone walls and some of the rooftops, smoke puffed out of chimneys while ice wolves howled in the distance beyond the city walls.  He took a drink off his goblet, the mead warming his chilled body as his thoughts went to the days of his early youth when all was carefree and he ran throughout this city playing with his friends.  His world had completely changed when he was barely six winters old when he was sent to study with the Greybeards at High Hrothgar.  He had left a boy and returned as an orphaned young man, his heart cold and hard by his experiences.

A knock at his door drew his attention; the hour was late but he had been expecting this knock.  He set the goblet down then went and opened the door, revealing a young guard, a slight look of fear in his young eyes.  Ulfric tried to remember the boy’s name but it kept eluding him.  “Can I help you?” he asked the young man.

“Sir.” The guard saluted then continued.  “Ralof is asking to speak with you.  He says that you will know what it’s about?”

He nodded.  “Is he alone?”

The guard shook his head.  “No, sir.  There is a woman with him.”

“A Breton?”

He nodded.  “Yes, sir.”

The jarl smiled.  “Very good.  I’ll speak to them in my study.”

“Yes, sir,” the guard answered as he saluted again before turning to leave.

Ulfric left the door ajar as he went into his study off the side of his bedroom and waited.  It wasn’t long before Ralof and Meliandra entered the room.  He glanced at the Breton, noting the way she held herself, confident but cautious, before turning his attention to his officer.  His strong voice rumbling in the room as he spoke, demanding their full attention.  “I trust this means there is cooperation?”

“Yes, Jarl Ulfric,” Ralof answered, looking back at his companion, a slight smile on his lips.  “Meliandra has agreed to speak with you.”

Ulfric gave her his full attention.  “Good.  I have a lot of questions; there might be a… offer of sorts as well, one that you should give serious thought to when giving me an answer.  Is that understood?”

“Understood,” she responded, a slight smile on her own face.

He saw the glint in her eye; it made him slightly uneasy.  Looking back at Ralof, he dismissed the man then waited until he was alone with the thief.  He walked to his desk, pulled the chair out and sat down.  Indicating the chair opposite to his desk, he stated flatly, “Have a seat.”

He watched as she walked to the chair, trying to read her.  She looked at him as she sat down, her amber eyes meeting his, the glint still there as she smiled at him, like a cat toying with her prey.  But he was no prey.  He gestured to the jug of mead on his desk.  “Care for a drink?” He didn’t wait for a response, rather he reached for a tankard and picking up the jug, began pouring her one.  “Did you enjoy your breath of freedom tonight?” he asked smiling.

“It was a lot more enjoyable than having to deal with that miserable excuse for a former guard in the cell next to me.  It could have been better if you’d have just let me go.”  She accepted the offered libation and took a drink, staring at the jarl all the while.

“I’m sure you understand why that’s impossible.”  He poured himself a tankard as well, returning her gaze as he did so.  “You see, I don’t know if you’re working for one of my enemies, perhaps inadvertently or maybe knowingly.  Either way, you managed to do something no one has ever done before and I want to know how you did so and who are you working for?”

She held the tankard by the rim, a long, graceful finger tracing the edge as she sat back, the look in her eyes boring into his.  “You have nothing to fear, Jarl Ulfric.  I am not working for anyone but myself.”

While he heard the note of truthfulness to her voice, her suddenly darkened yes caused him concern.  This time it was him whose eyes bore down on hers as he sat forward and crossed his arms in front of him as he rested them on his desk before him.  The smile on his face was not warm as he said, “I don’t believe you.  I can always return you to that jail cell until you decide to tell me the truth.”

A sneer flashed on her face for a moment, then she sighed heavily and drank more of her mead before answering him.  Her voice took on an edge, one of authority as she said, “Fine.  I work with the Thieves Guild.  I was given a task to make sure our presence here in your Hold was known.  Against the advice of my superiors, I decided that stealing something for you would be enough of a message that the Guild is still very much alive and well.”

His eyebrows arched again, this time higher.  “The Thieves Guild?”  He leaned in further.  “Am I to believe that this is just some random theft and not some covert operation on the part of Tullius and the Empire?” He shook his head, a false laughter coming from his lips as he looked at her again, more sternly then before.  “I find that hard to believe, Meliandra.”

Her eyes blazed hotly as she snapped.  “Tullius?!” She slammed the tankard onto his desk.  “There’s not enough gold in all of Skyrim that could ever convince me to do any kind of job for that piece of shit or the Empire!”

He smiled as he sat back in his chair.  “Care to prove it to me?”

Her eyes narrowed as she stared at him, studying him.  “What?”

“I asked you if you would like to prove to me that you do not work for the Empire?” He steepled his fingers before him, his smile still lingering on his lips as he said in measured breaths, “It’s very simple, Meliandra.  You prove to me that you are not an agent of the Empire and I’ll permit you to continue to live.”

She took a deep breath.  “And how do you propose that I prove that?”

“I want you to go to Castle Dour in Solitude.  You will bring me back the double-crossing turncoat Appius Fridthjof.  Simple as that.”

#

She opened the door and walked into the rented room to find Vorstag snoring on his bed roll while Lydia sat at the table in their room.  Lydia’s head turned quickly to see who was entering their room.  “My Thane!” the housecarl cried out, stirring their companion on the floor.

“Lydia, stop with that damn thane title shit, would you?”  She nudged the sleeping man on the floor with her foot.  “Wake up, Vorstag.  We’ve got to head out of here and soon.”

“Mel?” he answered groggily.  “What’s going on?”

“I’m in between a rock and a hard place, that’s what’s going on.  Now get up and let’s get out of here.”  She began collecting her belongings as she told them about her conversation with Ulfric and the ultimatum he had issued her, explaining to them that in order for her to leave Windhelm alive was to agree to do a job for the jarl.

“So he’s blackmailing you?” Vorstag snapped.

“Look,” she said, “I do this job, he lets me walk out of here.”

“He wants you to sneak into Castle Dour and extract an Imperial spy!”  Lydia cried out.  “It’s a suicide mission!  I cannot let you do this!”

Meliandra spun on her heel and advanced on her housecarl.  “I don’t need your permission to do anything.  This is the only way to prove that I am not a spy.  His own spies will be watching for me and will be reporting back to him.  If I do not do this, I will be hunted down and executed.”

The room was silent save for the sound of Meliandra’s packing as her statement settled in before her companions began to quickly pack their belongings.  A few minutes later they exited the room and headed out of the inn.  They walked in silence as they made their way to the city gates.

A cold breeze greeted them as they descended the steps to the bridge that spanned across the water that separated the old city from the mainland.  Meliandra pulled her fur cloak closer to her body and looked away as the snowflakes landed on her cheeks.  She saw the carriage waiting beyond the stables and indicated to her companions they’d be taking it.  She told them to get in the back as she headed to the carriage driver.

“Where ya headed?” he asked.

“Passage to Riften with extra coin if you pick no one else.”

He nodded.  “Hop in back.”

As the carriage set out, Vorstag looked at her, questioningly.  “Riften?  Why not immediately to Solitude?”

She smiled.  “Because despite being caught, I still finished what I was sent to do.  The guards might have recovered the items I stole from the armory, but I was still able to get out of the palace with this.”  She opened a bag to reveal a large signet ring embossed with the crest of Ulfric Stormcloak.

Persuasion

“Whoa!”

Ralof jumped back as he heard the spell crackle to life as Meliandra jumped to her feet, her eyes snapping open with a fury behind them.  “Hey!” He snapped.  “It’s just me!  What the fuck?”  Amber eyes blinked at him in confusion before comprehension set in leaving her staring, a glint of impishness in her eyes. “Hey, now, what’s got you so jumpy?”  He glanced at the conjured sword in her hand then back at her.  “You know, I bet if you got rid of that magic sword of yours, things would be a tad bit less tense.”

She looked at the sword in her hand, tilted her head to the side, then waved off the spell, the sword disappearing in the blink of an eye.  “I forgot about you and your infernal use of magic,” he said flatly.

“Oh, come on, now, Ralof.  Magic’s not bad at all.  And I’ve learned some new spells since you and I last saw each other.”  She grinned at him.  “I didn’t know you were back in Windhelm.”

“Maybe if you had come to Windhelm sooner you’d have known I had come home a long time ago.”  He glanced around the cell, moving just his eyes.  “Instead I discover that when you finally decide to come visit me, I’ve got to come to the city jail to see you.  What kind of welcome am I supposed to give you if you’re locked up in jail?”

“If I had realized you were back I would have made it more of a point to come and see you first.”

He smiled at her as he said, “Tell me another pretty lie, beautiful.  Maybe I’ll believe you.”  He chuckled.  “What do you think of getting out of here?”

She arched her eyebrow as she answered with a question of her own.  “Have I been pardoned?”

He laughed again as he reached for her hand.  “That completely depends on you, beautiful.”

She warily took his hand and let him lead her out of the cell to the chest that held her gear.  Opening it, he pulled out her clothing and boots and handed them to her; he had been told those were the only things that she was permitted to have at this time.  “Let’s go for a walk, beautiful.”

#

Ulfric sat on his throne, his chin resting on his hand as he listened to his steward as he gave the jarl the day’s reports concerning the city.  Another girl had been murdered by a person the guards had taken to calling ‘The Butcher’. The jarl believed that it was one of the dark elves that had lived in the Gray Quarter where all the dark elves in Windhelm resided, a refuge of theirs from the days of when the Red Mountain had erupted.  There were always reports coming from the guards who patrolled that area of Windhelm about assaults of every kind, of robberies and every sort of crime.  He did not trust elves.  He never had and he never would.

“Sir,” Jorleif was saying, “there continues to be unrest in the Gray Quarter.”

He glared at his steward.  “Fucking dark elves.  I don’t suppose you could tell them that I presently have much larger concerns?  Such as all of Skyrim?”

The older man frowned, saying, “They don’t seem to be very sympathetic to our cause, sir.”

Ulfric grumbled.  “Of course they’re not sympathetic to our cause.  They’re elves; elves stick together.”  He made a waving motion with his hand as he continued, “Talk to Free-Winter, have him talk to the elves.  He treats the Gray Quarter like his little pet project; let him settle their problems.”

“Yes, my Lord,” Jorleif responded.

The jarl started to say something else when he saw Ralof and Meliandra enter the Great Hall from the passage leading to the jail.  He watched as they walked to the entrance of the palace, his attention on the young Breton.  She had an intriguing aura about her; it was one he had noticed in Helgen and one that held his attention even more so now.  There was a confidence about her that shone brightly and he wanted it on his side.

He noticed Galmar standing to the side and turned to him; he saw the look in his second-in-command’s eyes, a look of uncertainty.  “Yes, Galmar?  Something on your mind?”

“Something about that girl I just don’t trust.”

Ulfric shrugged as he said, “It’s your job not to trust her.  It’s my job to make her trust us.”

#

Ralof and Meliandra sat at a table in the darkened corner of Candlehearth Hall, a soft glow upon them.  Because she was on prisoner rations, he had taken the Breton to the inn for a warm meal.  They had dined on venison steaks with baked potatoes, drowning the meal in pitchers of ale while they talked about nonconsequential subjects passing the time.  Meliandra caught sight of Vorstag and Lydia as they walked in trying to avoid eye contact with each other, but signaled that she was alright.

“Let’s get out of here,” Ralof said with a smile.

“And where do you plan on taking me?  Back to my jail cell?”

“I’d rather not,” he replied, stroking her cheek.  “I’d rather like to be able to give you the rest of your gear and tell you that you’re a free woman.”

“So do it,” she said in a whisper.  “Let me go and I will never step foot in Windhelm again.”

He laughed softly.  “Another pretty lie, beautiful?”  He stood up, taking her hand as he did so.  “Let’s go.  I have some things to discuss with you in private.”

She sighed as she followed the soldier out the door of the inn.  The night sky was clear, the brightness of the moon illuminating their path.  There was a sharp, cold bite to the air here; it was very invigorating to her.  He led her toward the Temple of Talos, turning at the graveyard.  He held her hand in his as they walked slowly past the headstones.  “Did you know that the last person who tried to steal from Ulfric was executed?”

She looked at him, her eyes slightly widened.  “He had them killed?”

Ralof nodded.  “Yes.  He would have already had you under the headsman’s axe.”  He stopped and turned her to face him, a smile hiding behind his lips but touching his eyes, “but you’ve piqued his curiosity, intrigued him.”

“I have, have I?”  She arched her eyebrow, her voice taking a hard edge to it.  “So, what, am I to be kept here in Windhelm to tickle his fancy, whatever that might be?”

“I don’t know what his plans are for you, beautiful,” he answered as he began to walk again, heading toward Valunstrad, the area of the city that held the most majestic of houses owned by some of the most prestigious of Windhelm citizens.

“Then what is all this, Ralof?” she asked.  “What is the meaning behind tonight?”

“Ulfric asked me to talk to you,” he answered flatly.  “He wants me to convince you to talk to him.”

She snorted.  “Talk to him about what, Ralof?  Why I was stealing his shit? Give me a break.  I’m a thief; it’s what I do.”

“Honestly, Meliandra, I don’t know.  He asked me to convince you to talk to him and that’s what I’ve set out to do.”

Ahead of them he saw a patrolling guard turning the corner past Viola Giordano’s place.  The city was quiet this evening, most people were staying indoors because of the recent murders against the women of the city.  Most of the windows in the houses were darkened save for the gentle flickering of hearth fires.  “Tell me something, beautiful,” he said as they approached the Shatter-Shield estate.  “Why didn’t you come to Windhelm when you said you would?”

“I was on my way and got held up by thing in Riften,” she said without hesitation.

“Riften?” he repeated.  “Well, that explains the thievery part of your visit now, doesn’t it?”  He saw her turn to him from the corner of his eye.  “You fell in with the Thieves Guild, didn’t you?”  At her silence, he stopped and turned her to him, continuing, “Now what is so appealing about the Thieves Guild that it would keep you away from me?”

She smiled sweetly at him.  “Gold.”  She chuckled.  “Gold is what kept me in Riften.”  She shrugged.  “I’ve made a good amount of it too, more than I would ever get fighting in this damn war.”

“Gold?” he asked, pulling her close to him.  “Is that all?  Are you sure someone didn’t steal the thought of me from your memory?”  He leaned down, lightly kissing her lips.

“You have me at an impasse, soldier,” she answered in a seductive tone.  “I cannot confirm nor deny what you accuse me of.  Perhaps I can make amends with you somehow?” She tilted her head to the side, a suggestive look in her eyes.

His eyes smiled as he wrapped his arms around her tighter, pulling her closer to his body.  “What kind of amends are you talking about?  You have left me here waiting for a very long time.”  He leaned in and kissed her again, this time a little more forceful.  He felt her hands find their way beneath his tunic and run up his back; his own hands cupped her rear, squeezing the cheeks firmly as his tongue forced its way into her mouth.

His erection throbbed against the confines of his pants as the desire built up within him.  His breath was coming fast and hard as he broke the kiss, his heart pounding loudly in his chest.  “What do you say we get out of view of everyone, beautiful?”

“Not feeling as adventurous as you did in Riverwood?” she breathed back at him, her hands fidgeting with the belt on his pants.

“I’ll show you adventurous,” he growled with lust as he picked her up and carried her around the fence and to the back of the property, hidden between the two houses in the darkness, the moons’ light not reaching this far back in the shadows.  He set her down and began to kiss her again, his hands working their way beneath her clothing.

She gasped as his fingers penetrated her; he smiled watching her lick her lips with her eyes half-closed as he stroked her insides, his thumb rubbing the nub of her desire.  Soon she was panting as she rubbed herself on his hand, soft moans escaping from her lips.  “Doesn’t take much to turn you on, does it, beautiful?”  She looked at him and smiled.  “You want me to fuck you now, don’t you?”  She nodded; he undid his pants, letting them fall to his ankles.  He kissed her again before telling her, “Give me some attention first.”

She obediently got on her knees and took his thick member in her mouth, eliciting murmurs of pleasure from the blond Nord.  He ran his hands through her hair as he watched her plump lips slide back and forth on his cock, sucking on him adeptly.  “That’s a good girl,” he murmured as he rocked his hips back and forth.  His moaning increased as the build up to his climax grew; he knew if she kept this up, he was going to cum too soon. He pulled her head away as he said, “Get up and turn around.”

Without hesitation, she obeyed him again.  He moved her clothing out of the way, rubbing her ass hard as he did so.  He stood behind her, wrapping his hand around her throat as his lips brushed against her ear.  “You want to feel my cock inside you again, beautiful?”

“Yes,” she breathed huskily.

He kissed her neck before taking a step back; placing his hand on the middle of her back, he guided her into a position that had her leaning against the wall, her hands placed firmly on the ledge of the house before her.  He slammed his hard on deep inside of her, causing a yelp to escape her lips before she began to moan in pleasure.

Back and forth he thrust himself in her; her vaginal lips caressing the thickness of his phallic member, the friction making her pussy drip heavy with her excitement.  A frenzy set in upon him as his lust raced headlong to the climax of their sex.  He felt her body begin to quake as her climax spasmed throughout her, knees going weak beneath her.  While her orgasm left her in a weakened state, it triggered Ralof’s own release.  He grabbed her hips as he slammed his dick in her with a powerful thrust, his seed exploding into her womb.

He stood there a moment as the last of his semen pumped out of his dick.  He slapped her ass, leaving a red mark on the cheek, pulling out as he did so.  As he pulled his pants up and began adjusting his belt he spoke to her.  “I really hope you listen to Ulfric, beautiful.  I really want to enjoy that pussy more often.”

Plans

Vorstag and Lydia had stayed up discussing what course of action they were going to need to take to get Meliandra out of the Windhelm jail.

He had been sitting at the bar when a guard came in, sat down beside him and began drinking while rambling on about how monotonous his job was.  Vorstag was about to get up and leave when the guard had started talking at length about the little Breton sitting in the jail.  Paying for the man’s next drink, he began to piece together enough information to figure out he was speaking about Meliandra.  He made sure he plied the guard with plenty of mead, ensuring he was so drunk that he could barely stand, then he went and woke up Lydia, telling her what he had learned.

The housecarl was furious.  She was having a problem with the fact that Meliandra would go out by herself regardless of any perceived dangers to herself.  She wanted to demand the release of her thane but Vorstag reminded her that Meliandra did not want anyone knowing that she was a thane of Whiterun, especially if she had been caught stealing from the jarl of Windhelm on a job from the Thieves Guild.

They finally decided that they were going to break her out, but neither one of them had an idea of what the jail looked like or even where it was in the palace.   “Well, what do you propose we do?” Lydia snapped.  “Walk right in?”

Vorstag looked at his boots in the corner, a muffling enchantment on them as strong as the day Meliandra had put the enchantment on.  He smiled as he looked back at the housecarl.  “Something like that.”

#

Galmar stood in front of his longtime friend, frustration and confusion growing as the morning had gone on.  “Why have the lad talk to her?” he inquired.

Ulfric sat at his table, a goblet filled with Nordic Mead in his hand.  “She’s the one who helped him escape Helgen.  From how he spoke about her I could tell that they had shared an experience that bonded them.”

Galmar snorted.  “You mean he fucked her.”

Ulfric half smiled but shook his head.  “I’m not going to venture into that discussion, but if he did, do you blame him?”

Galmar’s eyebrow rose as he eyed the jarl.  “Pussy is pussy.  I really don’t care one way or another what the bitch looks like; as long as she makes me cum, that’s all I care about.”

Ulfric said dryly, “It’s a wonder you don’t have an army of your own running around, nipping at your heels.”

Again, he snorted.  “No, I’ve been lucky enough that the Divines haven’t cursed me with a bastard yet.”

“You’re all heart, Galmar.”  He took a long drink of his mead as he gazed toward the window, the midday sun shining brightly through.  “At Helgen I had a heavy heart not just because we had been captured and facing death, and not because I thought our cause was going to die that day.  But because I had no son to carry out my legacy, my name.  I’d be nothing but a notation in the history annals of Skyrim.”

“But you are the jarl.  You are expected to have an heir.  Anyhow, you think she’ll talk to Ralof then because of Helgen?”

Nodding, Ulfric answered.  “That is my hope, that he can convince her to tell me what I want to know without it coming down to me having to use… other means.”  He took another drink.  “I have a feeling that little thief can be of use to us.”

#

The imprisoned guard laid upon the hay pile, nothing but some rags covering his groin.   Even though he had been stripped of his duties and his position, he felt no remorse for his actions.  His fellow guard had also been relieved of his duties but since all he had done was skip out on his duties, he would retain his position.  He also wasn’t sporting a broken nose.

Despite these things, he had made it a point to continue to harass the Breton thief whenever he had the chance, which was what he was doing at this moment.  “You really are lucky, bitch, you know that?”  He laughed.  “I was going to pound that sweet ass of yours if Ulfric hadn’t walked in when he did.  And you know what?”  He paused a moment before continuing.  “There’s nothing your pretty little ass would have been able to do about it.”

He heard a chuckle from the next cell and for some reason it gave him the chills.  “You think so, little man?”  he heard her ask icily.  “I bet I’d surprise you.”  And then she laughed and it echoed off the walls.  “I would definitely knock you on your fucking ass.”

#

Vorstag and Lydia slipped below through the passageways below the Palace of the Kings.  They had made their way into the palace by means of the sewers.  Lydia had turned up her nose at the idea but after hearing Vorstag’s argument and saw his logic, she reluctantly agreed.  Lydia’s nose was cringed as they made their way through the foul-stench of the underbelly of the palace and he could tell that she was fighting a bout of nausea.  He teased her about it a little, but picked up quickly that she was not in a jovial mood.

“I just want to find the jail and find a way to get Meliandra out,” Lydia was complaining.  “Then I want to get this stench off me.”

He nodded as he moved ahead.  He had long ago tuned out her complaining but was starting to realize that the housecarl seemed to know how to do nothing else.

Some distance ahead he could make out light coming from above, water flowing out from some kind of pipe.  He motioned to the brunette then pointed toward the light.  “What do you want to bet that that lead us to Mel?”

“If it doesn’t lead us to her, you’re going to be scrubbing all this shit off my armor.”

“If it doesn’t lead to her, I’ll buy you a new suit of armor.”

She raised her eyebrow.  “That sounds even better.  Let’s go.”

#

Ralof made his way through the passageways to the jail, a smile upon his face as his thoughts went back to that night in Riverwood at his sister’s house when the full impact of what they had survived had hit them.  They had been sitting along the wall of the house, hidden by the pines and the face of the mountain, drinking bottles of Black-Briar Mead in an effort to calm the nerves that seemed to jump at every sound.  He remembered how the light of the moon made her skin seem to shine; he had never seen beauty such as hers and was entranced with her.  He had held her as the shock hit her and her body began to tremble; he remembered how it had felt to have a woman in his arms again after being alone all those months on special detail for Ulfric.

The last time he had seen her was the next morning.  He had woken to the sounds of his sister cooking while his nose picked up the scent of Nordic coffee being made over the fire.  He had gotten out of bed, careful to not wake the raven-haired Breton next to him, wrapped a cloak around his half-naked body, and went to sit at the table.

“Brother,” she had greeted him, a sly smile on her face.  “You two were up late last night.”

“Did we keep you guys awake?”

She had laughed as she gave him some coffee.  “That’s an understatement, Ralof.  Frodnar can sleep through an earthquake, thankfully.”  She paused before continuing.  “Someone needs to go to Whiterun and warn Jarl Balgruuf about the dragon.”  She had glanced at the sleeping woman on the bed then back to her kid brother.  “Do you think you friend will do it?”

He had nodded and went to wake her, telling her that the danger of the dragon must be brought to the attention of the Whiterun jarl.  She was in complete agreement with him and began to prepare to leave for the hold capital.  Gerdur had given her enough supplies to see her through until she reached her destination.

An hour after he had woken her up, he stood at the door, his hands on her shoulders as he gave her directions to Whiterun.   “You’ll come to Windhelm and join up with us?” he had asked her.  When she had nodded he had cupped her face and looked into her eyes.  “Good, because I want to see you again.”  He had gently placed a kiss on her lips before she left for Whiterun.

He had waited for her, had begun to suspect that some unforeseen fate had befallen her, and then he had begun to doubt that he would see her again.  Now to discover she was being held there in the palace sent him into a state of elation that was tempered by the confusion of why she hadn’t come sooner and why was she trying to steal from the jarl?

These were the same question that Ulfric wanted answers to.  And that was what Ralof was going to do.

#

Meliandra had her eyes closed, concentrating on the sounds that were coming from the grate in the corner outside her cell along the wall.  The sounds were gradually getting more noticeable and she began to place what she was hearing, footsteps treading water, hushed voices, one belonging to a male, the other a female.  After a moment, she realized it was Vorstag and Lydia making their way through the foulness of the bowels of the palace.  A smirk graced her face.

The sound of a bird chirping echoed off the walls as she whistled softly.  She was answered by a similar chirping that echoed through the passageway below her feet and the smirk turned into a grin.  They chirped at each other until she heard him just outside her cell.  She stood by the cell door and spoke softly.  “I told you that learning those would be helpful if we ever couldn’t talk to each other.”

“Yeah, yeah, Mel,” came the laughing voice of her companion.  “What’s the deal then?  What do you need us to do to get you out of here?”

“I need my gear that’s in the prisoner chest across the room for starters.”

“I don’t have your lockpicking skills, Mel, and I don’t think Lydia does either.”

“In my bag at the inn are bottles of lockpicking potions as well as some invisibility potions, you can use those,” she said exasperatedly.  “Just get those and get back here.  Bring me some lockpicks and I’ll get my damn self out!”

“That would probably be the best option, Mel,” he grumbled.

Meliandra began to say something when she heard footsteps coming down stone steps.  “Ssshhhh…” she hissed quietly.  “Sounds like one of the guards is coming down here.”

She laid on her pile of hay and closed her eyes to give the impression that she was sleeping, even making snoring sounds.  She listened as the steps approached her cell then stopped.  A moment later she heard a key in the lock and the sound of the tumbler turning.   She concentrated on a spell, not knowing if she was going to have to conjure a sword or not, but she wasn’t going to be abused by a guard like the one had had in mind doing.

She sensed the guard’s presence by her feet; she tensed as she readied herself for a confrontation.

The Fly in the Web

Galmar turned away from the cell door in angered frustration, the Breton’s chuckling echoing off the stone walls.  She refused to cooperate, to tell him who she was, nothing but sarcasm and riddles.  They had stripped her of her clothing, throwing her a pair of torn up rags and put her belongings in a chest.  Galmar looked at the satchel in his hand and shook his head.  Ulfric was going to be livid when he found out about this.

He made his way through the cold passageways that snaked through the old palace, lit torches dancing shadows upon the walls that somehow seemed ominous to him today.  Servants started to make their way through these corridors as the night slowly began to give way to the dawn; they avoided the surly general as they passed him.

The passageway that connected to Ulfric’s wing was quiet save for the echoes of his bootsteps.  As he ascended the stairwell he noticed that the sun was beginning to break over the horizon; he estimated he’d been interrogating the woman for around three hours and he had learned absolutely nothing.  Ulfric was definitely not going to be happy.

#

Ulfric looked up from strapping his boots on, his hand reaching toward the end table where his dagger was but stopped when Galmar walked through the door.  The look on his general’s face made him sit up straight and ask in a harsh tone, “What is it, Galmar?”

The older man held his hand out, handing him a leather satchel.  “Look inside.”

He took the satchel, opened and peered inside.  His eyes widened and his jaw set firmly as he emptied the bag onto the end table next to him, watching as lockpicks, potion bottles and his father’s rings bounced off the wood.  “What is the meaning of this?” he demanded.

“Some woman managed to get all the way into your armory without being noticed.  A guard on his rounds saw her leaving the armory and managed to catch a glimpse of her before she drank an invisibility potion.  Elda confirmed a traveling Breton matching the description of what the guard saw had rented a room earlier.  We waited until she returned to Candlehearth and apprehended her.”

The jarl finished putting his boots on then stood up and walked over to his wardrobe.  Opening it, he asked, “So, you have her in a cell?”  Galmar nodded.  Ulfric nodded in return as he took his cloak from the wardrobe, and, putting it on, said, “Who is she and who does she work for?  And how in Oblivion did she get all the way into my armory without being noticed?”

“We don’t know.”

Ulfric stared at him.  “What do you mean, you don’t know?”

“She won’t talk.” He paused then continued, “Well, she talks – she’s got quite the mouth on her – but she won’t answer any of my questions.”

Ulfric’s eyebrow rose.  “Oh really?” He smirked, a cold look in his eyes as he walked toward the door.  “I’ll just have to go have a little talk with the thieving bitch myself then.”

#

Meliandra lay on the hay pile in the corner of her damp cell.  She had her arm thrown across her eyes but she was keeping the guards in her sight.  They sat at the table for a while playing a game of chance while making rude comments to her.  She ignored their insults as she continued watching and learning about her captors.

Soon they began to think she had fallen asleep and began to ignore her presence completely.  Truth was she wouldn’t be able to sleep even if she tried.  She knew she was in serious trouble.  She had been too headstrong, too confident, and that had cost her her freedom.  No one from the Guild was going to come break her out and she had no way to get a message out to Vorstag or Lydia.  She was going to have to bide her time until she could figure her way out of this.

She heard one of the guards say something about stepping out to Candlehearth Inn then one stood, stretched and left, saying he’d return in a couple hours.  His companion sat there for a moment then walked to the cell she was in.  He stood there staring at her; she didn’t need to see his face to know he that he was doing so in a led manner.  Her clothes had been taken with her belongings and they had given her rags that barely covered her body and clung tightly to her form.

She continued ignoring the guard, even as he began to say crude comments while beginning to rub himself through his clothing.  She felt her anxiety begin to rise as she wondered what this guard was going to do.

But what happened next had her anxiety rise even more.

#

Ulfric saw the guard in front of the cell, saw him reaching for the key to the cell while rubbing his groin and heard the comments coming from the guard.  His mind flashed back to the time he was a prisoner of the Aldmeri Dominion, he remembered being abused by the guards, he remembered everything that had happened to him as a prisoner of the Thalmor.  His rage exploded in a single breath as he Shouted “Fus”, sending the guard across the room and slamming him into the wall.  He stormed across the jail, grabbed the guard by his uniform and pulled the man to his fee before punching him in the face, breaking the man’s nose.  He drew his arm back to strike him again but Galmar grabbed his arm, stopping him.  He sneered at the guard as he released his grip on the man, letting him drop to the ground with a resounding thud as his helmet smacked the wall.  “You’re relieved of your duties,” he growled.  “Permanently.” He glanced at Galmar and said, “Throw him in a cell.”  He then walked over to the cell the thief was in and looked in, ready to begin interrogating her.

As his eyes took in the ebony of her hair and the amber of her eyes he recalled seeing her as she leapt out the side of the tower, flames and destruction surrounding them.  He had heard from Ralof how she had aided him in his escape and how she had helped him get to Riverwood.  He knew that Ralof had attempted to recruit her as a Stormcloak.  In fact, Ralof had said that she had been quite receptive to the idea of enlisting with the Stormcloaks, yet she had never made the attempt.

“Meliandra Valeria,” he said in a commanding voice, a smile tugging at his lips.  The satisfaction he felt on having a foot up already resonated in his eyes.

She looked up at him, her surprised look replaced quickly with a look of defiance.  “Ulfric Stormcloak, Jarl of Windhelm.  Good to see you again, though I must admit to some surprise at you remembering my name.”

He smirked openly as he said dryly, “When a name such as yours is attached to a mouth as smart as the one that kept talking shit to the guards, it’s a little hard to forget.” Galmar cleared his throat; Ulfric waved him away, an amused glance on his face then he turned his attention back to the Breton.  His voice slowly rose in anger while he held the satchel up for her to see, saying, “So, would you care to explain to me why the fuck you have decided to steal from me?”

She smiled at him; he noticed the smile did not touch her eyes which stayed cold and hard.  “I’m poor.”

“Bullshit,” came the gruff voice of Galmar as he opened the chest with her belongings and pulled out the ebony dagger and handed it to Ulfric.

The jarl examined the blade, admiring the quality of the craftsmanship.  He checked the sharpness and smiled.  Everything about the dagger spoke of its value from the ebony it was made with to the jewels and gold inlay.  “If you’re so poor, why haven’t you sold this?  Or is this stolen as well?”

He watched as her eyes narrowed and stared back at him, answering tersely, “It has too much sentimental value for me to even consider selling it.”

He tilted his head as he looked at her.  “Oh?  So, it’s not stolen then?”

“No.  It’s not.  I won it in a game of chance.”

He looked at her quizzically.  “But you said it has sentimental value?  If you won it in a game of chance, what kind of sentiment does it hold?”

“None of your damn business,” she snapped.

He laughed.  “There’s that mouth I remember.”  He sheathed the dagger and placed it in the folds of his cloak.  “Well, until that pretty little mouth of yours starts talking, this beauty belongs to me.”

With that, he turned and walked out.

#

Ralof waited for the jarl to address him; he had been told by Galmar there was something the jarl had wanted to speak to him about a personal matter of sorts, He had become one of Ulfric’s most trusted men but he was still surprised that he would request him personally.  Ulfric motioned for him to follow him into the war room and then dismissed everyone from the room.  Indicting the chairs at the table, they sat down.

“Do you recall the young woman who helped you escape Helgen?”

The blond Nord smiled as he thought of the raven-haired maiden that helped him escape the carnage that was once Helgen, nodding.  “What about her?”

“She’s being held in one of our cells.”

He looked surprised.  “What did she do?”

Ulfric placed the rings between them on the table, light from the window glinting off the gold as the jewels cast reflections on the wall.  “She was caught stealing my father’s rings from my armory.  She refuses to answer Galmar’s questions.  I was going to do the interrogating until I realized who she was and then I recalled you had already formed some kind of relationship with her?”  Ulfric leaned on the table and looked directly at him.  “Perhaps she will be more forthcoming with you?”

“You want me to interrogate her, sir?”

He shook his head.  “No, not interrogate.  Just get her willing to talk to us.”  He picked up a goblet and poured some ale from a jug into it.  “I want to question her… privately.”

#

Windhelm

The three of them walked into the city of Windhelm during a fierce winter snowstorm, their cloaks pulled close to their bodies.  Meliandra was thankful that the inn was directly in front of them as they headed inside, grateful at the thought of a warm fire, some mulled wine and local gossip.  The sound of a lyre and the ballad of Ragnar the Red greeted their ears as the door opened.  A middle-aged blonde looked up from her sweeping as they walked in, a sour look seemingly etched on her face.  “Come on in, just stoked the fire.  Got some fresh baked bread, how about a bowl of stew with some bread and fresh churned butter?”

Meliandra looked to Vorstag and Lydia; she could swear she heard the housecarl’s stomach rumble at the mention of food.  She looked back to the innkeeper and nodded, “There some seating around the fire?”

The blonde nodded, “Aye, upstairs.  Get yourselves warm.  Shall I bring you something?”

Lydia piped up, “Some of that stew and bread and a jug of mead.  Don’t forget that butter either.”

Vorstag chimed in and added to the order, then headed up the stairs while Meliandra and Lydia stood at the foot of the stairs.  The Breton looked at her housecarl and asked her why she hesitated to join Vorstag.

“My Thane-“

Meliandra interrupted her saying, “My name is not ‘My Thane’.  Call me Meliandra.  I don’t really want to be reminded of my thanehood.”

Lydia frowned.  “I’m sorry, Meliandra.  It’s just…, I’m sworn to protect you.  I should remain by your side.”

Meliandra looked at her wide-eyed.  “You know, you take your job way too seriously.  Live it up some, Lydia.  Go upstairs and wait for me.  I’ll be up there shortly; I’m going to get us a room for the night and leave my stuff in there first, alright?”  She watched as the Nord grudgingly agreed and climbed up the stairs.  She approached the woman, studying her as she did.  Once she secured the room and paid for everything, she went to the rented room and shut the door.”

She began going through her pack and located her satchel that held her burglary tools and enchanted jewelry.  She slipped her rings on her fingers, placed her enchanted necklace on and changed into her boots that were enchanted with muffling but she stayed in her traveling clothes.  She set her bag in the wardrobe and exited the room, making her way upstairs.

Vorstag sat at a small table by the fire, a tankard of ale in his hand as he spoke with a man clad in steel armor, a sellsword by the appearance of him.  Lydia sat not far away, looking uncomfortable among the grouping of Stormcloak soldiers.  Meliandra made her way to the empty chair and sat down, noticing her own bowl of stew with a chunk of bread.  She hadn’t realized how hungry she actually was until the aroma of the stew assailed her nose making her mouth water.  Soon, she found herself using her bread to clean the sides of the bowl she ate from, sopping up every bit of broth she could.  She was slightly disappointed when she was finished but the fullness of her stomach was evidence of her satisfaction.

While Lydia and Meliandra spoke idly about random subjects, the Breton paid attention to the talk of the townspeople, listening for any gossip that would be of benefit for her and the Guild.  It wasn’t the loud voices that got her attention but the hushed whispers of the old women speaking of the chanting coming out of the old Aretino place.  She listened with interest how they spoke of how the husband had been a Stormcloak soldier and was dead three winters now and then how last winter the wife was taken in death, leaving the boy orphaned.  Apparently, the boy had been sent to Honorhall Orphanage in Riften after that.  Some months later people had started reporting seeing the flickering of lights from within as well as ominous chanting, yet the house was locked up as tight as it was the day the jarl’s men locked it up.

Meliandra arched an eyebrow as she finished her drink.  ‘Maybe,’ she thought to herself, ‘I’ll just have to go check out this ghost.”

#

The door shut softly, the clicking of the latch barely audible.  She slipped her hood off her head and onto her shoulders as she walked around, gazing in awe at the assortment of weapons in glass cases and ganging on the walls.  Delvin had instructed her to steal enough things of value that they’d know that only the Thieves Guild would be brazen enough to steal it.  She had a feeling that stealing something from the jarl’s personal armory would be exactly the thing to make the people of Windhelm remember the Thieves Guild and let them know that they were very much alive and well.

The jarl of Windhelm had an interesting collection of both armor and weaponry.  There were mannequins in Ancient Nord Armor with ancient Nord weapons on the racks next to them.  She approached one mannequin that stood alone from all the others, eyeing the armor that dressed it, a worn, beat up shield attached to its hand.  But it was the rings on its fingers that caught her attention.  The gems were flawless, perfect.  And the gold and silver were gleaming brightly as if they had just been made.

Smiling, she removed the rings and slipped them into her satchel.  She glanced around the room, her eyes quickly scanning the room for anything else of value.  Seeing nothing, she slipped the hood back on and made her way out of the armory before drinking the potion of invisibility she had taken out.  She thought she heard a footstep just down the hall, but she saw nothing.  Not wanting to break the effect of the potion, she decided not to cast a detect life spell and made her way out of the palace.

#

She didn’t have much trouble finding the Aretino house.  She saw no one around and worked the lock with her pick, finding success in just a few tries.  The home was dimly lit by a few small candles.  She heard a young boy’s voice up the stairs but couldn’t make out the words.  As she got closer she could him more clearly.

“Sweet Mother, sweet Mother, send your child unto me, for the sins of the unworthy must be baptized in blood and fear.”  Over and over she heard these words as she climbed the stairs, following the voice to candle-lit room.

It seemed like she had walked in on some kind of ritual; there was a skeleton on the floor, along with a human heart and rotting flesh encircled by candles.  She watched as the child rubbed the blade of an old, rusty dagger with petals of Nightshade, his voice filled with exhaustion as he lamented, “How long must I do this?  I keep praying.  Please, Night Mother, why won’t you answer me?”  He dropped the petals and began to chant again as he repeatedly stabbed the effigy on the floor.

She steeped on a board that creaked loudly, startling the boy.  The dagger fell to the floor with a clang as he fell backward, a look of shock on his face.   He worked his lips but no sound came forth for a moment as he stared at her.

“You okay, kid?” she asked, slightly concerned.

“It worked!” he cried out, jumping to his feet.  “I knew you’d come!  I just knew it!  I did the Black Sacrament, over and over.  With the body, and the…things.”  He motioned toward the bloody mess on the floor.  “And then you came!  An assassin from the Dark Brotherhood!”

Meliandra’s mouth opened.  “You’ve been trying to get the Dark Brotherhood?  Why in Oblivion would a child be in need of an assassin?”

The boy looked down.  “My mother died and I’m all alone now.  The jarl had me sent to Honorhall Orphanage in Riften.  It was terrible there!”  He looked back up at her, his eyes lit by the flames of his anger.  “the headmistress is an evil, cruel woman.  They call her Grelod the Kind.  But she’s not kind.  She’s terrible.  To all of us.” He shrugged and ran his foot from side to side in a small spot.  “So, I ran away, and came home.  And performed the Black Sacrament.”  He smiled as he looked at her.  “Now you’re here!  And you can kill Grelod the Kind!”

#

She walked out of the Aretino house and headed back to the inn; she thought about the boy and his situation.  She had heard mixed stories of the old woman who ran the orphanage.  She couldn’t just take the boy at his word and even if what he had said was true, as the leader of the Thieves Guild, she could not risk getting caught in Riften for committing a murder.  Yet the pain in the kid’s eyes spoke to her; she had seen that same look reflected in her own eyes when she was a young child.  She remembered how she had felt when so much had been taken from her at such a young age.  Part of her wanted to help him.

She turned the corner, the inn a short walk away.  Her thoughts went to the warm room she had rented and the bed within.  She was tired and her mind was heavy with thoughts of Brynjolf and now weighed down even more as she thought of the Aretino boy.  The more she thought about it, the more she realized that she wanted to help the boy, her only concern was how would she get away with it?  Slightly shaking her head, she decided she’d give it more thought the next day on their return to Riften.

She stopped abruptly.  Her eyes scanned her surroundings, the unmistakable feeling of someone watching her tingling up her spine.  She listened carefully for any sound as she studied the shadows, relying heavily upon the heightened senses she possessed, a genetic gift from her father.  She started reaching for her dagger when a pair of soldiers stepped out of the darkness, both having their swords drawn.

She took a step back, then turned and headed toward the city gate.  She could easily take two guards on at once, but she did not want to draw attention to herself.  She’d have to find a way to get a message to Vorstag and Lydia inside the inn, but she could not afford to get herself arrested.

Once again, she stopped short as the guards by the city’s entrance drew their swords and stepped in middle of her path.  She turned in the direction of the docks, dreading the idea of an escape through the icy waters but saw no other option. Mid-step she realized escape was not feasible as more guards appeared.

“Shor’s balls,” she said exasperatedly.  She watched as an older man walked toward her.  He wore a Stormcloak officer’s uniform, but one she had only seen in passing on her travels.  He held no weapon, though a Warhammer was strapped to his back.  The look in his eyes told her that trying to run would not bode well for her.  He stopped an arm’s length away from her.

“You got a big set on you, don’t you, girl?”

She arched her eyebrow, a smirk appearing on her face.  “You have no idea, old-timer.”

“Why don’t you give me one then?” he responded.

She glanced at the guards then back at him.  “Maybe another time, Gramps, when it’s not so…crowded.”

“If you ever get the chance.”  He motioned to a couple of the guards.  “Get her in irons and take her down to the cells.  Make sure she doesn’t have anything on her and double up the guard on her.”  He looked at her dead in the eyes as he said, “I don’t know how you managed to get into Ulfric’s personal armory without anyone noticing you, but you sure the fuck won’t be sneaking out of your cell anytime soon, thief.”